Doolittle to judge: Ex-aide Ring should get no prison time in corruption case

Prosecutors say Doolittle comments ‘egregious’ after no-show as defense witness during trial
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Ex-Rep. John Doolittle is challenging the U.S. Department of Justice’s successful prosecution on corruption charges of a former top aide, Kevin Ring. But prosecutors are questioning why Doolittle didn’t testify for his friend and former Washington staffer during the trial that convicted Ring on bribery and corruption charges. Ring, who went on to work for lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is being sentenced Oct. 26 on bribery and corruption counts after being convicted earlier this year in a Washington, D.C. jury trial. In a letter to Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, Doolittle said that Ring left his office and a job as legislative director in 1997 to work for the Senate but they remained close. “I now want to state to you unequivocally that at no time was I ever corrupted by Kevin Ring in any of his dealings with me nor did I feel that Kevin ever attempted to corruptly influence me or members of my staff,” Doolittle said. In a memorandum accompanying their sentencing recommendations, Justice Department prosecutors said that Ring’s choice to submit a letter from Doolittle “is particularly egregious.” “Ring could have chosen to have Doolittle appear (in) court and subject himself to cross-examination at trial,” the Justice Department document states. “Instead Ring selectively quotes the self-serving statements of the recipient of Ring’s bribes.” Doolittle was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in one of the honest services fraud counts Ring was convicted of. He stepped down as congressman in 2008, representing a sprawling Northern California district that included much of Placer County. “Doolittle’s denials of corruption in his relationship with Ring would ring hollow during cross-examination when it would be made clear that the ‘low-show’ job that Julie Doolittle received from Abramoff and Ring was not the only ‘low-show’ job that those seeking official acts from Congressman Doolittle created for his wife,” prosecutors stated. Doolittle’s letter describes Ring as a hard worker and a staff member he developed a “warm personal relationship with” based on very similar political outlooks. “As time progressed, I was thrilled to watch Kevin marry and start a family of his own and embark on a new career as a lobbyist,” Doolittle wrote, in a pre-sentence document filed with the court and obtained by the Journal. Doolittle said he was grateful that Ring remained committed after his departure for the aide’s job to helping him “whether it was providing political advice, raising campaign funds or lobbying other offices on my behalf when I ran for a leadership position.” “Kevin was an excellent lobbyist” but “little did we know that, years later, our relationship would be deemed corrupt by prosecutors,” Doolittle said. “After years of threats and intimidation tactics, Kevin was formally accused of trying to bribe the members of my staff by occasionally taking them to lunch or providing tickets to local events.” Neither Doolittle nor Ring testified at a U.S. District Court trial this year that ended with Ring being found guilty of conspiracy, payment of an illegal gratuity and three counts of honest services fraud. Prosecutors are seeking a 50-month prison term with no fine and three years of supervised release. Doolittle said Ring is now $2 million in debt, his former aide is separated from his wife, and he will be separated from two young daughters who primarily live with him if he is imprisoned. ----------------------------------------------- Doolittle calls for no prison for Ring Ex-Rep. John Doolittle recommends to Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle that Kevin Ring serve no prison time because “it would only compound the massive injustice that these prosecutors and their helpers within the FBI have already inflicted upon him.” Doolittle, who served as District 4 Republican congressman for 18 years, repeated what Ring had stated in his own pre-sentence letter to the judge – that he was being asked to lie by prosecutors. “They told him that the only way to guarantee his personal liberty and avoid the astronomical financial and emotional cost of a trial was to implicate his former boss – me,” Doolittle said. In pushing for a 50-month sentence, prosecutors argue that a below-the-guidelines sentence would provide no cautionary tale for future deterrence to anyone considering engaging in criminal conduct similar to Ring’s. “It may have the exact opposite impact and demonstrate that, there is no ‘cautionary tale’ and that those who push the outer edges of the law will never be punished if they cross the line into illegality,” prosecutors state. Doolittle said prosecutors also were threatening to charge his wife, Julie Doolittle, with crimes if the congressman didn’t plead guilty. “Since neither she nor I had committed a crime, we would have had to lie in order to give them what they wanted,” Doolittle said. Now a lobbyist in Washington, Doolittle said investigators interviewed dozens of people who worked in his congressional office over the years, as well as his wife’s business clients, their neighbors, and acquaintances. “In the end I was pleased but not at all surprised that none of my former staffers were charged or prosecuted for the activities they undertook while working for me,” Doolittle said. Prosecutors say Doolittle was part of a “corrupt bargain for early success and money” made by Ring. “Team Abramoff and its Chief Operating Officer Kevin Ring sought to corrupt numerous public officials with expensive meals, exotic trips, tickets to exclusive concerts and sporting events and a low-show job for a congressman’s wife,” they state. Doolittle said that prosecutors repeatedly defamed his wife and himself “with the added insult of being named … unindicted co-conspirators.” Doolittle said he has never been had an opportunity until writing the judge to express his views to a government official. For Doolittle, he believes his own Justice Department interaction is over. “In June 2010, the Department of Justice notified my attorney, in response to his direct inquiry, that the case had been declined and was considered officially closed,” he stated. The Journal will report on more development leading up to Ring’s sentencing.